Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen Democratic leaders make a more concerted effort to show support for the Occupy Wall Street protests, while also tying Republicans to the Tea Party. It’s pretty clear what’s driving the strategy: one burgeoning movement is vastly more popular than the other.
This will very likely come as a surprise to the political establishment, which mocks OWS activists and shows undue respect to Tea Partiers. (In the case of CNN, this includes partnering with a Tea Party political action committee.) And yet, the attitudes of the political mainstream are rather one sided.
A new Time magazine poll asked respondents for their opinion of “the Tea Party movement.” Just 27% had a favorable opinion. Then the poll asked about OWS.
“[I]n the past few days, a group of protestors has been gathering on Wall Street in New York City and some other cities to protest policies which they say favor the rich, the government’s bank bailout, and the influence of money in our political system. Is your opinion of these protests very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, very unfavorable, or don’t you know enough about the protests to have an opinion?”
A combined 54% had a favorable impression — exactly double that of the Tea Party.
The same poll went on to ask about a variety of specific OWS-related positions, all of which enjoyed strong support — 68% want the wealthy to pay more taxes; 71% want to see bankers prosecuted for the 2008 crash; 79% believe the gap between rich and poor in the U.S. has grown too large; 86% believe Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence.
It’s almost as if Occupy Wall Street concerns mirror the American mainstream’s concerns.
Now, it’s worth noting that the Tea Party folks have seen their support falter badly, but that’s after two years of often-incoherent complaints from its activists. Americans have had time to grow tired of the bizarre, far-right antics. In time, maybe sympathies for OWS will fade, too.
Or maybe they’ll grow. Time will tell. The larger point is, the establishment seems to assume Tea Partiers are sensible patriots, worthy of considerable attention, while Occupy Wall Street includes a bunch of hippies, not worth taking seriously.
Americans, in general, appear to believe otherwise.